A new organization called CTrees is launching a satellite-based carbon tracker that can pinpoint carbon in trees. By “trees” they do not mean forests, stands or other groups of trees. You mean every single, single tree on the entire planet. Eventually, policymakers and other stakeholders will get their hands on some hard data behind all the big tree planting plans being peddled around these days.
Calling all trees
Verification is the key issue for carbon markets. It’s difficult to earn the trust of investors and the general public when all you can offer are ambitious but vague promises to save the planet from climate catastrophe by planting trees.
As a non-profit organization, CTrees aims to provide a stakeholder-neutral, open-source platform that delivers on these promises of a more down-to-earth accounting practice.
“Until now, poor carbon accounting practices have increased concerns about transparency and integrity,” CTrees noted in a press release last week, adding that “CTrees will also support stakeholders active in the carbon market, including investors, project developers and regulators, who continue to grapple with questions about the true potential for reducing carbon emissions from investments in forestry and how to accurately account for the carbon traded.”
“CTrees’ consistent global dataset provides a near real-time picture of the carbon impacts of forest conservation and restoration at the local, national and global scales, ensuring that the results of efforts to meet global climate goals can be accurately reported,” emphasized you.
trees to the rescue
CTrees’ pedigree includes an R&D background of more than 20 years led by the US team of Dr. Sassan Saatchi (of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory) along with teams from Brazil, Denmark and France.
The organization already has the national and judicial forest data at hand. The digital platform will be available in November, with launch scheduled for COP27 in Glasgow, with operational use beginning early next year.
If you want to dive into the data, visit ctrees.org.
You will certainly have your hands full as the tree planting initiatives are piling up one after the other. Try this CleanTechnica tree planting archive and it is clear that more and better data is badly needed.
A problematic aspect of these large-scale tree planting programs is exemplified by the World Economic Forum’s One Trillion Trees initiative.
The trillion figure caught the attention of former President Trump, who had enlisted the US in the Trillion Trees Initiative when it launched in January 2020. “Big Deal,” he said during an Earth Day tree-planting ceremony earlier this year.
That would be the same former president who pulled the US out of the 2015 Paris climate accord and campaigned to delay development of the country’s extensive offshore wind resources, among other anti-climate measures.
Trump also appointed three ultra-conservative justices to the US Supreme Court, forming a 6-3 Republican supermajority that will continue to undermine federal action on climate change long after he is voted out.
Carbon Markets & Greenwashing
With hard data in hand, the CTrees platform should help make elected officials like Trump, as well as private sector stakeholders, think twice before using trees to green their anti-climate activities.
To be clear, greenwashing will most likely continue, but at least CTrees will put reliable comparative data in the hands of ESG investors and public sector policymakers.
Ctrees quoted Dr. Lee White, Gabon’s Minister for Forests, Sea, Environment and Climate Change to emphasize the role of reliable data.
“As we move towards a Glasgow regulated REDD+ or net sequestration market, it is critical that we have high quality, independent measurements backed by the best scientific evidence to ensure we have the transparency and integrity that we need and that the markets trust they get what they pay for,” said Dr. White.
This hard data could make a significant difference, especially now that cryptocurrency mining has shown the potential for new industries to suck up renewable energy sources and revitalize fossil fuel sources that were previously slated for retirement.
Trees or no trees, the Biden administration has already targeted crypto mining for action in federal climate policy. With CTrees operating, it becomes all the more difficult for crypto miners to advocate for sustainability.
Wait, what is REDD+?
Climate advocates wary of the whole idea of carbon markets can take their case to Glasgow. In the meantime, this ship has already left. That of Dr. White’s cited REDD+ program is one reason for this.
REDD+ is a forest protection initiative within the framework of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. It is Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, with the “plus” emphasizing conservation and sustainable forest management.
“[REDD+] aims for the implementation of activities by national governments to reduce human pressure on forests that result in greenhouse gas emissions at the national level, but also recognizes sub-national implementation as an interim measure,” states UNFCCC.
“The implementation of REDD+ activities is voluntary and depends on the national circumstances, capacities and capabilities of each developing country and the level of support received,” UNFCCC adds.
That might sound like weak tea, but with private sector stakeholders looking for more trees, there’s plenty of opportunity. This is particularly relevant for leading corporate citizens who profess to support the Paris Agreement.
“REDD+ is also recognized in Article 5 of the Paris Agreement, where the parties reiterated the encouragement to implement REDD+ activities and that they should be an integral part of the Paris Agreement. Therefore, the WFR is a basis for parties participating in REDD+ to meet the highest level of commitment to climate action in the forest sector,” stresses UNFCCC.
Follow the money…to more trees
REDD+ is a voluntary program, but that doesn’t mean there are no rewards. Nations that fall into the developing country category can receive “results-based funding for results-based actions” as long as the results meet reporting standards.
In addition to carbon reporting, participants must comply with community safety precautions and provide forest monitoring information.
Transparency is also written into the program, meaning you can check participating nations in the Lima Information Hub for REDD+. More details are available on the UNFCCC REDD+ web platform.
If everything goes according to plan, CTrees will take the transparency factor to the next level. This is becoming increasingly important as REDD+ continues to mature and face new challenges.
For example, an emerging issue is the carbon benefit of reforestation compared to maintaining existing forests. Last week, Norway and Indonesia strengthened their ongoing REDD+ partnership after a brief hiatus last year, but Greenpeace blasted the new deal that allows deforestation to continue.
If you have any thoughts on this, leave us a message in the comments thread.
Follow me on Twitter @TinaMCasey.
Image: Carbon storage in trees in California (courtesy of Ctrees).
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